FRIENDS and Carnegie Hill Neighbor’s Appeal Denied by the Board of Standards and Appeals BUT…


(Left) L-Shaped building lot pre-construction (Right) Rendering by DDG

In a vote of 4-1 last week, the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) voted to deny our appeal of 180 East 88th Street. In their comments, Commissioners acknowledged the deficiency of the Zoning Resolution’s text regarding this issue, but eventually conceded that the Department of Buildings (DOB) acted within its right to approve the subdivision of the zoning lot that created the micro-lot. Because the text does not prescribe a minimum lot size in this zoning district, the Commissioners therefore determined that DOB was reasonable in approving the 10 foot lot. 

Although we are disheartened by the BSA’s decision, the deferral of the issue to the Department of City Planning (DCP) underscores vocal efforts by FRIENDS, our fellow civic groups, and elected officials that DCP address these issues. As Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and the entire Manhattan delegation of the City Council stated in a letter in August, DCP must pursue a


180 East 88th Street showing the carved-off portion of the lot in blue. Credit: George Janes and Associates

holistic set of solutions to address not only inter-building voids, but also tighten the definition of a zoning lot, and introduce restrictions on floor to ceiling heights. Mayor de Blasio and DCP have previously committed to addressing the mechanical void exemption by the end of the year, but have not made any further public statement since June.

Despite the ultimate ruling, several Commissioners suggested that a legislative solution is needed to disallow use of this loophole in future projects. Specifically, DCP should specify a minimum lot size for commercial districts within the text of the Zoning Resolution. Commissioner Salvatore Scibetta cast the sole vote in support of our appeal, stating in his verbal comments that the subdivision was a violation of the spirit of the Zoning Resolution. Further information on the BSA’s reasoning will be available when the written decision is released in the next several weeks. 

Clear legislative action on the part of the DCP is required to strengthen our city’s zoning rules so they provide the clarity, consistency, and predictability necessary to discern their intent, and to address the many types of loopholes exploited in service of unreasonable and out of scale buildings on the Upper East Side and in residential neighborhoods citywide.

FRIENDS, along with Carnegie Hill Neighbors and the support of our local elected officials, has been challenging the carved out 10 foot by 22 foot portion of 180 East 88th Street’s original zoning lot since October 2017. The decision follows two public hearings in July and October 2018. For additional background information on the project and the challenge, click HERE.